Software

Five free desktop backup tools you may never have heard of

It's nice to know there are backup tools that can be installed, free of charge, which can handle one, simple task.

It's simple: If you're not backing up your data, at some point you're going to regret that mistake. For many medium to large businesses, data is typically backed up via shared directories on a server. But for smaller companies, or end users who have needs outside of shared directories, it's nice to know there are backup tools that can be installed, free of charge, and can handle one, simple task: Backup your desktop data.

I'm not talking about applications with bells and whistles to suit every need. What I'm looking for are applications that can do one job and do it dependably. In my quest to find a backup tool to meet these needs, I came across five that could happily recommend. Let's take a look at these tools and see which, if any, will do the job you need done.

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Five Apps

There is one caveat to some of these tools - for a few, the free version is assumed for private use only. The business versions of the same tools can be acquired, for a small price.

1. Backup Maker

Backup Maker is one of those tools you need if what you're looking for is simplicity and security. Backup Maker handles your desktop backups with an interface that nearly anyone (with any level of experience) can use. This tool easily handles compression and even offers strong encryption (AES 256-bit). Backup targets can be anything from USB drives, FTP (passive or FTP over SSL), or CD/DVD. Backup Maker even supports spanning backups (splitting larger backups into multiple files). The personal edition is free. If you need to dive in for a professional license, it will set you back $66.63 USD. Backup Maker works with Windows XP, 7, Vista, and 8.

2. Genie Timeline 2012

Genie Timeline 2012 has one of the most simplistic interfaces you'll find (bested only by the Linux-only Deja Dup) and is about as close to 'set it and forget it' as any backup can be. Although the free version of Genie is very limited in scope and feature, it will reliably backup desktop data with just a few, quick clicks. One of the nice features of Genie is that it can back up both unlocked and locked files (though I wouldn't depend upon a tool like this for a machine that runs a local database, such as MySQL). Genie Timeline offers an incredibly easy way to exclude files - called the No Backup Zone. Simply drag and drop files into this folder and they will not be backed up. Genie Timeline is available for Windows XP, 7, Vista, and 8.

3. FBackup

FBackup is a nice and easy backup, with minimal features and maximum reliability. You can set FBackup for hourly, daily, weekly, and monthly intervals. The major limitation with Fbackup is that you do not get an option for either incremental or differential backups - all you get is full or mirror. Probably the one feature that won me over to FBackup is the application specific plugin. What the developers have done is set up plugins that enable quick and easy backups for popular applications. For example, there is an Email plugin that will backup popular email applications (like Thunderbird and Outlook). This feature should win over anyone that doesn't want to spend a great deal of time setting up backups. FBackup is available for Windows XP, 7, Vista, and 8.

4. LuckyBackup

LuckyBackup is the first of the Linux backups on the list. This is my personal backup solution of choice. Not only is it incredibly easy to use, it is also as flexible as the platform it backs up. Lucky Backup features: Backup or syncing directories; create snapshots of data; test-run system; exclude system; add/remove rsync options; execute user specific commands upon successful run; easy restore; and much more. Lucky Backup does not include its own scheduler, but works with the Linux cron system to create scheduled backups. With Lucky Backup you can create different profiles, so you can group backup jobs together for granular setup. Luck Backup runs on most all modern Linux systems.

5. Deja Dup

Deja Dup is the aforementioned backup with one of the minimal interfaces you will find on an application. Although Deja Dup offers an incredibly simple interface - it does offer plenty of features. With very little setup, you can have your data backed up to an attached drive or a cloud service (such as Amazon S3, Rackspace Cloud Files, and Ubuntu One). By default, Deja locally encrypts and compresses your data and does incremental backups. If you're looking for one of the easiest ways to back up your Linux desktop data, you will not find an easier option than Deja Dup. In fact, you'd be hard-pressed to find an easier solution, regardless of platform.

Bottom line

If you have to ask the question "Should I be backing up my data?" you are in the wrong industry and should return to using tin cans and stone tablets. The ultimate question should not be if you'll lose data, but when you'll lose data. Even if you're shared drives are backed up on a server, you might need to backup specific local directories - or your business is a one man band in a home office and your budget for such software is next to zero. No matter the case, give one of these solutions a look and see if it will handle the task at hand.

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About

Jack Wallen is an award-winning writer for TechRepublic and Linux.com. He’s an avid promoter of open source and the voice of The Android Expert. For more news about Jack Wallen, visit his website getjackd.net.

20 comments
mijcar
mijcar

Depending on your needs, you may want to focus on two different solutions: Restoring your system if it crashes or is physically damaged and restoring while data. System restorations are often pointless with a copy of exceptions. If a machine breaks down, chances are it will be replaced with a new machine with its own system. In that case, it would probably be better to reinstall vital software rather than trying to restore on old backed system. The exceptions would be when replacing a fixed drive and those situations when you have software identified with the machine (such as Adobe products and iTunes) and which need to be unlinked before you can replace them on another machine. The most efficient backup for those situations is probably weekly backups to external drives. On the other hand, data that is vital to businesses need almost instant backup, and probably to offsite (or offsite and external drives) storage facilities. The good part of this is that such vital current data (as opposed to archive data) will probably be limited in quantity and can be placed with a number of free sites.

maj37
maj37

I tried a couple of these and a couple of others. Didn't really like any of them, either features were missing or the interface was clunky. The question I have is why do you need any of these if you have Windows 7? The backup application built into Windows 7 works fine for me. Does fulls and incrementals, the interface is OK. You do have to use its interface to do a restore, you can't just go grab the file, but that is fine as long as you don't have to restore a lot and if you do restore often then you have other problems.

Angel_Tech
Angel_Tech

I tried Cobian but it gave me some errors so I opted for FBackup and I liked how simple it is to schedule and setup incremental backups.. Both do the same using the shadowCopy service.. Personally I only back up 'media' files plus documents.. so this works great for my personal desktop.. Cheers :)

RNR1995
RNR1995

They have a free backup program on their site, works well Also Vice Versa is excellent for synching data

MusicRab
MusicRab

Sorry - I cannot get reply to work. "There is a product called "Memeo Professional Backup" (www.memeo.com) that is simple and works in realtime - assuming you mean backups happen as they need to...Not sure why it wasn't reviewed here. " Interesting - yes - that's what I meant by real-time. Effectively you install the program and start it off. First time it obviously takes a while to backup your selection, but after that it justs sits quietly in the background. Why not reviewed here? a. there's hundreds of backup products and b. its not free. Still think there's scope for an article "fire and forget free backup tools".

corneroffice
corneroffice

Not too sure what the blogger was listening to when he wrote that headline :-\ It worked though. I did click to read it..................

mijcar
mijcar

Just for future reference, "simplistic" does not mean "simple". "Simplistic" means: overly simplified as in "too much so". You comment that "Genie Timeline 2012 has one of the most simplistic interfaces you’ll find" is therefore not a compliment, but an insult meaning that GT20212 has an interface so simplified that it is not adequate to the job it is supposed to do.

mark
mark

I have a NAS storage unit with RAID... all important data gets stored onto the NAS... anything unimportant (applications, games) that can be restored easily are just stored locally and I dont bother backing them up...

rpdomingue
rpdomingue

I've been using "SECOND COPY" for almost 10 years now. Minimal interface, sImple & Very Easy to use. I have it both on my personal laptop and my work laptop. You can set to backup specific files/locations, how often to backup, etc...

desforde
desforde

I used Cobians tool many times. It can be set to run to schedule or by a simple manual start 'right click' select Run. You get the choice to automatically shut down when the backup is complete. It can also be set to mail a report to a 3rd party.

fat frank the tank
fat frank the tank

I read in a forum somewhere that the well known and most excellent program .... Unstoppable Copier .... can be scheduled to perform automatic backups. I believe it can also backup the same data to several locations. Now I'm not 100% sure about this (I'm going from memory) but a time saving feature like this would be worth a web search.

blayer21
blayer21

"Am I missing something here? One thing many of my (not very computer literate) customers says about backup (yes, they know its important!) is they want it to be as hands-off as possible. Which prompts a number of questions. 1. is there a technical issue with doing backups in real-time? 2. do any of the above products have a "backup in real-time" option? 3. article idea -> "Have you ever considered backing up for free in REAL-TIME?" I've mainly used IOMEGA quickprotect when required but this is not supported under Windows8. There must be a demand for this sort of thing. " There is a product called "Memeo Professional Backup" (www.memeo.com) that is simple and works in realtime - assuming you mean backups happen as they need to. This prduct ships with some Seagate USB drives. It allows you to simply plug in the removable media, set up the back up profile and go! Then you can either leave the drive connected and the backup happens automatically (only files that need to be backed up are actually backed up) or you can plug and unplug the removeable device and the backup happens in the background automatically. It is simple and nice and relatively painless. Not sure why it wasn't reviewed here.

MusicRab
MusicRab

Am I missing something here? One thing many of my (not very computer literate) customers says about backup (yes, they know its important!) is they want it to be as hands-off as possible. Which prompts a number of questions. 1. is there a technical issue with doing backups in real-time? 2. do any of the above products have a "backup in real-time" option? 3. article idea -> "Have you ever considered backing up for free in REAL-TIME?" I've mainly used IOMEGA quickprotect when required but this is not supported under Windows8. There must be a demand for this sort of thing.

pchafe22
pchafe22

Great list of options, I am always on the lookout for free options to recommend to colleagues, and clients. I just wanted to let you know that there is an error in the FBackup Section, Microsoft Outlook plugin is only available for Backup4All. only outlook express plugin is available for FBackup. An in depth set of instructions for backing up Outlook data are located here: http://www.fbackup.com/forum/topic/backup-outlook-emails-and-settings Peter.

lehnerus2000
lehnerus2000

I use "Macrium Reflect Free Edition" to backup my OS and data partitions. I create backup images before: - I install the "Patch Tuesday" updates - Trying out new programs

Mark W. Kaelin
Mark W. Kaelin

When did you last back up your data? Are you living on the edge?

lehnerus2000
lehnerus2000

The Windows built-in tool won't backup my Linux partition, but Macrium Reflect will.

blayer21
blayer21

...it is free if you by the removable disk with it installed! That is how I was introduced to it. :-)

ICanFixIt
ICanFixIt

RAID arrays can (and do) fail unrecoverable, especially in consumer grade NAS boxes. Also data may be destroyed on the RAID by "user error" (oops, I just synced my folder the wrong way with an empty folder!). RAID provides redundancy in the event of a disk failure, but you still need backup for important data. If your data is important you need at the very least two copies of it.

maj37
maj37

I also use it for images. I really like it.

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